There's an oft-repeated mantra that "The only rule in freeform crochet is that there are no rules." But is that really true? Let's take a moment to pick the no-rules rule apart and see if it holds water.
As a longtime freeform crochet enthusiast, I originally bought into this rule, abandoning all others in the process. I embraced the approach whole-heartedly; it offered me complete freedom, which was, in my opinion, the technique's greatest appeal.
But, problems resulted. They were all problems that could have been avoided -- easily. But I didn't avoid them, because I bought into the "no rules" rule.
The thing is, there are rules inherent in the universe at large. We all know that, don't we? And then, there are certain rules that apply to textiles, whether we like it or not. Same as gardening has rules, and so does cooking, and so do many other things.
Let's say I decided to become a "freeform gardener," and I further made the declaration that "the only rules in freeform gardening are that there are no rules." How do you think my experiment would turn out?
Well, perhaps I'd end up with a really cool garden – with an interesting mix of food and flowers and shrubs and trees growing all over the place in a splendid, happy profusion of color.
Or perhaps not. It's also possible that I'd make a complete mess. If I ignored the "plants need water" rule, my plants would all die. The same thing would happen if I ignored the "plants need sunlight" rule. And so on.
How about if I decided to become a "freeform chef," declaring that "The only rules in cooking are that there are no rules." The consequences of that could be disastrous, possibly resulting in an array of unwelcome results including burned food, indigestion, food poisoning or worse.
The point is, you can ignore the rules if you like, but you do so at your own peril. That's the biggest problem I see with the "there are no rules" rule in freeform crochet. It simply isn't true.
So What Are the Rules, Then?
It would be a challenge for me to make a comprehensive list of all the rules that apply to textiles in general, and specifically to freeform crochet. The following are a few of the rules I can think of off the top of my head. I arrived at this list primarily by looking at older pieces of my own freeform crochet work that I was disappointed with because they did not wear well with time. Perhaps you could think of other rules that should be added to the list.
- Different fibers can be expected to perform, and wear, differently, especially as time passes and they are laundered.
- Some fibers can withstand machine washing; others must be hand washed or dry cleaned. Therefore, it's a good idea to take that into consideration when you crochet a freeform piece; if you want your piece to be machine-washable, you need to ensure that every yarn you use in the piece is a machine-washable yarn, and that the fibers are compatible enough with each other that they will not look strange or distorted after getting washed.
- Some fibers such as wool will felt. Obviously, if you want to felt your entire piece, you need to make sure that all the fibers in your piece are felt-able. And if you want to machine wash your entire piece, you need to make sure not to use any felt-able fibers in the piece.
- Some fibers will shrink more than others. It's not a good idea to use yarn that shrinks bunches in the same piece with yarn that doesn't shrink.
- Some dyes fade with time. Others don't. I got rid of some worn, partially-faded and partially-not-faded pieces from my collection that demonstrated this all too well.
- Some dyes will bleed when laundered the first few times; if you have a yarn that's been treated with these dyes, it's not a good idea to use them in the same piece with white or light-colored yarns; if you do, the light-colored yarns could be ruined in the first wash.
In many cases, you can avoid the above problems by crocheting a small swatch using all the yarns you plan to use in a freeform crochet project; then launder the swatch a few times to see what will happen to it. If it distorts, shrinks, fades, discolors, pills, bleeds, or does anything else that seems strange or undesirable, figure out which yarn(s) are causing the problem and eliminate them from the project.
Alternatively, you can often limit problems by using like fibers – for example, all wool yarns – together in the same freeform crochet project.
I hope this list will help you to avoid some of the costly mistakes I've made in my own freeform crochet work. Happy crocheting!